St. Simons Elementary students had the chance last week to help create a friendship quilt that will soon be on display in several countries, to spread awareness of conservation efforts for migrating shorebirds.

As part of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s Arctic Migratory Bird project, students in Erin Geer’s art class at St. Simons Elementary decorated fabric squares on Friday that will be sewn into a “shorebird friendship quilt.”

Geer said students rarely get the chance to connect with international partners in such important projects.

“It is amazing to engage the students in projects that have real life application,” Geer said. “If the friendship quilt can help our citizens become more aware of these birds and the need for stronger conservation of their habitats, we are more than happy to participate.”

Fabric squares for the quilts are being decorated by students and other community members with pictures and messages, which highlight the importance of conserving shorebirds and their habitats.

The project aims to engage and educate communities at key stopover sites along the birds’ migration path of the shared responsibility for the birds’ well-being.

Several shorebirds that breed in the North American Arctic have recently experienced sharp population declines.

One Hundred Miles, a coastal advocacy organization that aims to protect, preserve and enhance the 100-mile Georgia coast, is taking part in the project, which is in collaboration with six other communities at important migratory shorebird sites along North America’s Atlantic and Pacific flyways.

“One Hundred Miles is so pleased to have a chance to work with our student artists and our international partners to celebrate the amazing shorebirds that visit Georgia’s coast,” said Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation with One Hundred Miles. “Georgia’s barrier islands, beaches and marsh habitats support thousands of shorebirds year round. Up to 80,000 individuals have been documented here in winter months.”

Keyes said the food sources found in coastal Georgia habitats provide a driver for many long distance migrant and resident shorebirds.

The quilt will be presented to top environmental officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico at the 2017 CEC Council Session, which will take place in June in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The quilt will then travel across North America and be on displayed at public places and events to raise awareness of shorebird conservation.

The CEC is an intergovernmental organization that support the cooperative environmental agenda of the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Geer’s class has spent time throughout the school year discussing conservation and incorporating that into their art projects.

Earlier this year, Geer said, her students made signs for nesting birds to be placed around Glynn County.

“I try to incorporate the beauty of the natural world, the fact that we live in the Golden Isles and a little bit of conservation into our work,” she said.

For the Arctic Migratory Bird project, Geer’s class made about 15 fabric squares, with paint and colored pencils.

The students were excited to have their work be displayed internationally, but a bit nervous, Geer said.

“It surprises me that they’re always hesitant to have their work seen by so many people and have it on display,” she said.

She said these were her advanced art students, though, who volunteered to take part in this hands-on project.

“The kids are a unique group of kids, and for fifth graders, they really do get the environmental challenges and the importance of ecology,” she said.

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